About Dr. Marshack’s Blog

Dr. Marshack’s blog postings are short and timely. She shares tips that make your complex relationships work better. She also posts questions because she wants to hear from you and share ideas. Bringing people together to help each other is one of her missions.

Note: Some of the older blogs posts have been imported from a previous website and may have broken links. Try the “search” function in the sidebar to find linked pages that appear to be missing.

4 Critical Skills that Children Need

4 Critical Skills that Children Need - Kathy MarshackWhen you discover that your child has “Asperger’s Syndrome”, it makes you feel utterly helpless. I know, because I’m a trained psychologist, with a master’s degree in social work and a doctoral degree in psychology and I still felt that way about my own daughter who, by the age of 14, was officially diagnosed with “ASD”.

We want the absolute best for our children and as a result, I became a helicopter mom. Being a helicopter parent is a natural outcome of the crazy-making AS/NT world. Our natural instincts are to protectively hover over our children when they have such a serious disability. You can read about “Lessons I Learned about Helicopter Parenting from My ASD Daughter”.

4 Critical Skills that Children Need Kathy MarshackA few weeks ago, I read an article that piqued my interest. I’m talking about the article from Eric Barker’s blog,  “This Is How To Make Your Kids Amazing: 4 Secrets From Research”.

In this article, Barker mentions two experts (Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne) who wrote a book on fundamental skills children should be taught to be successful in life. We want our children to know they have more options than the basic “fight or flight” reactions. As a parent, I know you are wondering the same thing: how can we raise happy and emotionally healthy children?

Siegel and Payne establish 4 critical skills children need to learn:

  • Balance: when your child has a meltdown (red zone), acknowledge their emotions and make sure they understand that you are listening. This doesn’t mean you cave. After the emotions have died in intensity, you should have a calm discussion and educate your child, by setting limits and holding him/her accountable. Bring your child back to the green zone – a state of calm and happiness. If we are dealing with those issues when we are calm, it’s a lot easier to implement those solutions when things get tense.


  • Resilience: the next step is to expand the green zone. This doesn’t mean to eliminate the red zone, but to educate your child on how to act and handle certain situations. Here is where a helicopter parent will have difficulties. You need to allow your child to experience negative situations and deal with them in order to grow. Here is a blog I wrote on this topic: “Does Good Parenting Mean You Shield Your Child from All Adversity?” 


  • Insight: help your child to be aware of their feelings and reactions, so they can know themselves better, have the ability to have an impartial view from the outside and learn to use that information to make better decisions in the future, to monitor themselves better. Help your child name his feelings to help him/her recognize that emotion.


  • Empathy: children go through a development phase where they are self-absorbed and learn how to behave in society. This is normal, but what we don’t want is for them to be stuck there. You can try to deliberately draw children’s attention to other people’s experiences and their feelings. This can be done during storytime in the evening, not necessarily only when something bad has happened.


Of course, when your child has an empathy disorder, they will never outgrow that developmental phase. However, people on the Spectrum can learn rules of engagement, but they can’t be taught empathy. The article, “Can a Person Be Kind without Empathy?”, might be a good read for you.

Let me know what you think about this blog article, specifically these skills that might help our children be happier and mentally healthier. What do you think? Are they enough? How are you teaching your children these skills in a practical manner?

You’re Not Too Sensitive, It’s Verbal Abuse

I’d like to start by clarifying a common misconception: verbal abuse doesn’t include only cussing and swearing. If you have heard “You are too sensitive” before, you have probably been verbally abused. Name-calling classifies as verbal abuse too. The list is long. This is a tough subject but it’s time to bring it up, isn’t it?

You’re Not Too Sensitive, It’s Verbal Abuse Kathy MarshackIs it abuse when your loved one with “Autism Spectrum Disorder” says the meanest things to you, your children or others? If they have an empathy disorder, do you excuse this behavior? Is it less abusive because there’s a reason behind the behavior? How much abuse should you tolerate because you’re trying to help?

In my opinion, if it feels like abuse… it is abuse. I wrote an article on “How Can You Tell if It’s Abuse or Asperger’s that you might find useful. The short answer to that question is that it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the source of the abuse, it has to cease immediately. Check the article for a guide with steps you can take.

Patricia Evans has a good test for you, with questions you can ask yourself, to figure out if your partner is verbally abusing you. Check her website. There you can also find good tools to work through abuse and reclaim your life. 

If you are interested and live near Quincy, IL, Evans will give a workshop where she will bring awareness and understanding regarding the nuances of abusive relationships, and how to identify and address them in clinical settings as well as how anyone can respond to abuse. The workshop will take place on May 1st 2020, in Quincy, IL, and tickets will be available after January 1st. Find out more about this workshop.

Being a victim of verbal abuse (or any kind of abuse) can cause serious side effects such as depression, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, don’t wait too long and start working on taking back your life.

On our private membership website, reclaiming your life from abuse and stress is one of our main topics of discussion. We discuss how to manage the abuse, how to stand up for yourself, and how to put the responsibility squarely on the abuser. This is the first step for taking back your life, which is your real mission. If you aren’t a member yet, but you think you could benefit from joining us, please visit our website. Members have access to forums, video conferences and teleconferences, so I hope to see you there soon.

Is Intimacy a Thing of the Past?

If you are a member of our private membership community, ”ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”, you have probably noticed that I’m about to start a series of video conferences titled “Is intimacy a thing of the past?”

Is Intimacy a Thing of the Past? Kathy MarshackLove and marriage make for very complex relationships. They are not static but are ever-changing as each person matures and grows. A strong marriage requires constant and loving attention, which is challenging when one of the partners has an empathy disorder and the other partner feels like their love is one-sided.

How do you know you are in a one-sided relationship? I wrote an article with 10 questions to ask yourself and find out if you are the one who offers more in your couple’s relationship. Feeling like your relationship is one-sided doesn’t necessarily mean your partner doesn’t care about you, in his or her way. Lack of empathy is the reason for this one-sidedness. Of course, knowing this is not comforting, but it’s a start to understand what is happening.

Sex, socializing, and parenting in “AS”/NT Marriages are tough and complex subjects. Because of the lack of empathy in your “Aspie” partner, you will often feel misunderstood and unloved, and this may cause you to think that your marriage cannot survive, let alone thrive. This blog post dedicated to this topic might be helpful to you. There are ways that you can learn to cope and thrive as an individual and in your marriage. Whenever you choose counselling or joining a support group, you should know that you are not alone.

If you’d like to join our small group of people talking about intimacy and relationships, please register to attend one of my video conferences. I will give the same talk on 3 different occasions, so if you can’t attend on one day, maybe one of the other 2 dates will be better. All times are in the Pacific Time zone. The dates are:

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 at 4:00 pm

 Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 at 10:00 am

 Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 at 2:00 pm



We are also talking about intimacy in our forums, on our private membership website. If you’d like to talk about this subject with other members, check this forum (only for members – be sure to be logged in or you won’t be able to see our forums).

If you are not part of our private community, but you’d like to be, please take a look at our membership levels and see which one would be the best fit for you. You are not alone and you don’t have to face all the hardships alone. By being a member of our community, you will have access to video conferences, free teleconferences, forums and a supportive community who has been in your shoes. I hope to see you soon.

About Dr. Marshack’s Blog – Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D.

Dr. Marshack’s blog postings are short and timely. She shares tips that make your complex relationships work better. She also posts questions because she wants to hear from you and share ideas. Bringing people together to help each other is one of her missions.

Note: Some of the older blogs posts have been imported from a previous website and may have broken links. Try the “search” function in the sidebar to find linked pages that appear to be missing.

Understanding Context Blindness

If your partner or loved one has “ASD”, are you familiar with “context blindness?” 

Context blindness is something that happens to people with “Asperger Syndrome”. For most people, context is a natural part of life. Everything is relative and depends on the context. For someone with “Asperger’s”, life is absolute – especially in regard to social interaction. Context blindness hinders an individual from being sensitive and aware of the feelings of others. You can also read an older post I wrote about “Mind Blindness and the Disconnect in Asperger Syndrome Relationships”.

Dr. Peter Vermeulen discusses context blindness is his book, “Autism as Context Blindness”. He brilliantly describes how the autistic brain works and includes practical exercises to help improve in the area of context blindness.

I found a good summary of his book on www.autism.net and I’d like to share it below:


“Context Blindness is a theory developed by Dr. Peter Vermeulen, a psychologist and the co-director of the Center for Concrete Communication in Belgium.

“The human brain is very sensitive to context and this contextual sensitivity plays a crucial role in many cognitive abilities that are affected in ASD, such as face perception, emotion recognition, the understanding of language and communication, and problem solving. Context refers to the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place. Context reveals and directs our perception and therefore influences and directs our response.

“For example, there is no one correct answer to any of these questions:

What is the polite way to greet someone?

What is a good birthday gift for a friend?

What does a woman feel when you smile at her?

Can you touch someone’s hair?

What is the ideal distance between you and another person?

What would you tell someone about yourself?

“It all depends on the context. Contextual sensitivity works at a subconscious level to: help us focus on the essential; make the world around us more predictable; and help us to find the right meaning in vague situations when multiple meanings are possible.”


Is your “Aspie’s” behavior starting to make more sense now?

Neurotypicals still have to find ways to cope with the abusiveness and cluelessness of their “Aspie” loved ones, but I do think the theory of Context Blindness helps in this regard.

First, just understanding better how your “Aspie” thinks, or better said what is missing from their thinking, is tremendously helpful. It is far worse to stand there dumbfounded by the craziness.

Second, Context Blindness is a step in the right direction for finding solutions for “Aspies”. They may not be able to rewire those parts of the brain that contributes to organising the social context of life, but they can learn to be less defensive. It’s vital to reduce anxiety and defensiveness if an NT/”AS” couple stands a ghost of a chance.

Third, with understanding comes the ability to drop the NT’s defensiveness and guilt and myriad other co-dependent behaviors. It’s easier to detach from the anger, hurt and blame, when you realize that it is not your fault. When you learn that there really is very little you can do about the problem . . . well that’s a kind of freedom, don’t you think?

How can you tell if you’re co-dependent on your “Aspie”? I wrote a blog post to guide you to your own answer. Ask yourself a few questions and answer truthfully. You can find the blog post here.

Context Blindness is one of the many themes we discuss through video conferences and free teleconferences (soon podcasts too) in our private group, ”ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”. This group has been created from a need of our community to gather in a safe and private place to discuss our daily difficulties and problems. If you are a partner or have a loved one suffering from “Asperger Syndrome”, I invite you to join our community. Visit our website to see how our home looks.